Monday, August 31, 2009

Gastronomic extravagance

I have a lot to say, because I'm a narcissist and I want to impose myself onto YOU, whether you like it or not. Photos to follow, tomorrow.

Started the weekend off well, with a fresh seafood-themed dinner, highlighted by an incredibly delicious pan-seared bream with tofu soup, followed by a battered and fried blue crab. Paired with a lovely NV Champagne and an old riesling. Amazing combinations of flavours, and a very satisfying Friday. Capped the night off with a few glasses of whisky and early to bed.

Started drinking on Saturday early - still had a bit of the Champagne left, which worked nicely with a strawberry shortcake. Sometimes you're a bit wary of serving a more acidic wine like Champagne with something sweet, but this bakery makes the most perfect cakes, with not a lot of sweetness. Perfect for my palate - I don't have a taste for sweets. Then, off to a friend's place to begin one of the more extravagant dinners I've been to this year.

I chose the wines with a specific pairing in mind. Four bottles, 9 people. Two bottles of Spanish Cava, Brut that I wanted to pair with scallops and salmon. A bottle of Pouilly-Fumé to marry with the oysters, bien sur, and a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon blanc, to cook and drink with mussels. Fantastic. I was itching to get started.

We started with the most wonderfully fresh Kumamoto oysters. Small in size, but big in flavour. Just phenomenal. So rich, so creamy, all balanced with a hint of brininess. Absolutely delicious, and achieved perfect harmony with the Pouilly-Fumé. I'll elaborate on that in a later post, with the exact bottle we drank.

Onto some salmon sashimi. I'm not a man in love with salmon. But my friend had procured a whole salmon, which he filleted and sliced himself. So fresh, with the most beautiful depth in colour and shade. Absolutely amazing. This was the most flavoursome salmon I've ever tasted, with all the richness and delicacy salmon possesses. He cooked it two ways - the second dish was a spiced filet of salmon barbecued on a cedar plank. Incredible. Cooked to perfection - a bit of crust on the outside, wonderfully moist and tender on the inside. Phenomenal. Very smoky, with a savoury quality not unlike a piece of smoked meat. The cedar adds a very subtle layer to the flavour, which is very nice.

Mussels. Not quite in season yet, but these were all alive and fresh. That's already a step up from the bags you find in the supermarket. Our local store is fine and all, but I'm always prepared to throw away 5-10%. Cooked simply, with lots of onion and olive oil. A bit of butter for weight, then white wine, a New Zealand sauvignon. It has all the bright fruit and high acidity to balance out the richness. Some herbes de Provence to give complexity, season to taste. Mussels were done in 50 seconds. Incredibly delicious, with bread to dip in the broth. Came out as white as milk, and exactly as I had hoped. Scallops, pan-seared with minimal seasoning, finished with some butter. Simple, fresh, delicious. Paired well with the first bottle of Cava. This surf and turf obsession has got to stop. Rich seafood and rich meats don't go well together, you need balance.

Finished the meal with some Malpeque oysters. A bit brinier than the Kumamoto, but very refreshing. Perfect with the Cava. Bubbles are a wonderful way to close a meal, as they cleanse the palate, and prepare you for the desert. Excellent. Tiramisu - same bakery, perfectly low in sugar, moist and flavoursome.

Cleared the table, onto the mojitos. And that's when I should have called it quits. I started shooting rum instead. Mojitos are wonderful but sometimes you just need fire down the throat. Sweaty and anxious, because I wanted everything to come out so perfectly. Rocky pulled it off. How am I going to top this? Well done. Excellent food.

I think I know why I felt so shattered yesterday. Maybe I was a bit too intense for dinner. When you want everything you plate to be perfect, you completely drain yourself. Even though it was a casual dinner, you still want to share your enthusiasm and get your friends excited about the oysters and salmon and scallops we were eating, and the wine it was being paired with. It's not about ego, it's not about showing off, but if that intensity and energy rubs people the wrong way - that's just how it is. Or rather, that's just how I am. You can't expect me to sit there and taste these wonderful flavours, where the food matches perfectly with the wine and not expect me to start hyperventilating with excitement.

I don't know how to be diplomatic when I'm talking about food. Or someone else's palate. How do you say, 'you have the palate of a 3-legged dog - something's missing', without coming off as a total asshole? No, I'm not diplomatic about food. Rocky's quite skilled at it though. Maybe I should just eat in the kitchen. You wouldn't know by looking at me, but I have a big mouth when I start drinking. I have the tolerance of a f*cking whale, but when you've been drinking for 8 hours straight, who knows what'll happen...

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